Saturday, September 10, 2016

News Weakly - 9/10/2016

Outlandish?

A man in Kansas City, Kansas, walked into a bank and handed a note to a teller demanding money. The teller complied. The man didn't run. Wait ... what? He just stood around until the police came and arrested him. Apparently he and his wife were fighting and he didn't want to stay at home anymore. He'd rather be in jail than at home (Prov 25:24).

Send out the clowns

Have you heard about this? Apparently multiple reports of "scary clowns" are coming out of South Carolina where the fear is that these clowns are trying to lure kids into the woods for purposes unknown. Of course, this wouldn't be a problem in Washington D.C. They're used to scary clowns. They call them "government".

They are all not of us.

At the recent Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) Onward Conference, Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, interviewed Andy Stanley. Now, if you're not familiar with Andy, he is the son of well-known pastor, Charles Stanley. Andy is senior pastor of North Point Community Church, a multi-campus megachurch in the Metro Atlanta area. Last month Andy preached that pastors needed to stop saying, "The Bible says." "The Bible tells me so" is not a good reason to believe. "Should we really believe something just because the Bible tells us so?" Stanley believes the Bible is not entirely true. That is, for instance, Adam and Noah never existed, that inerrancy cannot be defended, that basing your theology on what the Bible says produces faltering, failing Christians. In the interview played at the conference, Moore asked Stanley what he would do if he were the "Evangelical Pope", so to speak. (Now don't go getting your knickers in a twist. It's a theoretical question designed to figure out what a person thinks, not as a recommendation -- "We need a pope!") Stanley said he would do four things. He would have all churches that were "dying" (he didn't offer a definition) sell their property and give the money to "church planters" (again, no definition). He would tell preachers to "get the spotlight off the Bible" and back to the Resurrection. (How you do that without the Bible is completely unclear.) He would revise the Bible including a renaming of the Old Testament to "Covenant with ancient Israel" (because obviously it has nothing to do with today ... like homosexual behavior and such) and the New Testament as "Covenant with the world". And he would ban Christians from "judging outsiders" and force them only to ask, "What does love require of me?" (as if recognizing sin and loving others are mutually exclusive).

Now, to be fair, some of the intent behind Stanley's "Get the spotlight off the Bible and back to the Resurrection" comment was specifically in regards to evangelism. That is, if you want to reach the unsaved, you have to get them to the Resurrection, not to the Bible. While I disagree for biblical reasons, I understand the sense of what he's trying to say there. Still, if believers need to stop insisting that "The Bible tells me so" is not a reason to believe, then believers will quickly find themselves with nowhere to stand, no basis, and nothing they can hold as true.

It is disheartening to see a popular pastor offering the basic argument of Satan -- "Did God say?" It is sad to see the offspring of a renowned pastor demonstrating 1 John 2:18-20. It is a warning, in my view, for parents -- pastors or not -- to take seriously their commission from God to "bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Eph 6:4)

They will also persecute you

No, we in America are not being executed for our faith. We aren't being hunted, imprisoned, whipped, or a host of other terrible things that other Christians in other parts of the world are enduring. But Jesus said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 5:10) He went on to expand on that with, "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account." (Matt 5:11) In that sense, then, we are being "persecuted". Right? Or maybe you haven't heard.

Last June a public school in Palmdale, California ordered a 7-year-old boy to stop handing out Bible verses during lunch. You see, his mother made a practice of including Bible verses in his lunch bag. He shared them with friends. They liked them and asked for copies. She added copies. A teacher informed the child and his mother that this was not allowed. Mrs. Zavala complied and her son only shared those things off campus. So the school sent a deputy sheriff to see that it didn't happen at all.

It is only fair to point out that the school has just managed to perform a complete 180. "The school has now sent a letter through its legal counsel informing the boy that he's free to share his religious message with fellow students at the campus as long as he doesn't do it during instructional time. Mr. and Mrs. Zavala were also informed that they're free to pack a daily note for their son in his lunch box." Good news, but the issue in a country where religious freedom is constitutionally protected should never have come up. The obvious conclusion is that it will again.

Lest we lose sight of reality, there is substantially real persecution going on in the world and we ought to keep them in our prayers. ISIS beheaded 21 Christians in Libya. In Russia authorities have begun arresting Christian leaders as part of a ban on evangelism because clearly evangelism is terrorism. You can evangelize in Russia ... as long as you do it inside the official churches ... like it was in the Soviet Union of the 1920's and '30's. In Iran five Iranian Christians were arrested at a picnic. No arrest warrant was offered. One of the five was beaten. He was the son of a pastor arrested in December of 2014 and charged with "conducting evangelism", "illegal house church activities" and "Bible printing and distribution". The current condition or location of the prisoners is not known. These five are just a part of the crackdown on Christians in Iran. In August alone 40 Christians were arrested. Reports are that Christians are being persecuted (serious persecution -- up to and including death) in Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Israel, Hungary, India, and many other places. Pray for them.

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